Complete Guide to Hiking With Dogs

Why Bring Your Dogs Hiking?

It may seem like a hassle to have to load up your furry friends and bring them to your hiking spot, but it really isn’t, and there are many reasons why!

Also be sure to watch the Youtube video by Hiker in Estonia on why you shouldn’t bring your dog for hiking at the end of this article.

Keeping you Motivated

Let’s face it, there may be some days when you don’t feel like going for a hike, even though you had it planned for that day. If it were up to you, you might end up sitting on the couch and watching television all night. However, if you are planning on taking your dog for a hike, then that can be a factor to help motivate you to actually do it. You will be less likely to skip out if you know that your dog needs the exercise. You don’t want to deprive your pooch of their favorite part of the week, do you? Dogs are not just our pets, they are also part of our family. We want them to be as healthy and happy as possible, and taking them for walks and hikes is one of the best ways to achieve this. Knowing all of this, you will be less likely to stay home on “hike day”.

Dogs Love to Walk

Most dog owners should know that taking dogs for walks is absolutely essential for their health and well-being. Dogs love to be outdoors, they love to explore, and they love to work, as well. It’s one thing to bring them on your usual route around the neighborhood, but it’s quite another to provide them with the extra challenge of going on a hike in a forest or other challenging spot. Hiking in nature will expose your dogs to new smells and sounds that they may not have experienced before. Dogs have an excellent sense of smell, and going into the woods is like a sight-seeing tour using their noses.

Source: Brent from Flickr

Exercise in the form of walking is essential for dog health. It helps their hearts just like ours, for instance. Not only that, but walking can help improve circulation and digestion. If your dog seems like he’s constipated, the best solution is to take him for a stroll. Walks also work to tire your dog down. Why is this good? A tired dog is better behaved and more open to instruction. In many cases, poor dog behavior is directly related to how much exercise they get on a daily basis. A dog that has had a good workout is less likely to chew on furniture and get into mischief back at home.

Human and Dog Bonding

Humans and dogs walking together helps to build bonds. Dogs are natural pack animals. Their instinct is to travel in a group scavenging for food and providing shelter and support for each other. By taking them for a walk, you are reinforcing that pack mentality, and placing yourself as the leader of the pack. A dog pack is very trusting of each other, which means your dog will develop a deeper trust of you while you are going for walks together. If you want a close bond with your dogs, which you absolutely should, then regular walks, including hikes, are essential to your relationship.

Best Dog Breeds for Hiking

All dogs love the outdoors because it is in their nature, and they can’t live spending their entire lives inside. That said, there is a big difference between walking on the streets and sidewalks near your home, and going for a hike in the woods on uneven and possibly treacherous terrain. Some breeds are better suited for hiking, so if you are looking for a dog to hike with, make sure to choose the right one.

Siberian Husky

First of all, you can tell by the name that these dogs are born to survive in cold and harsh climates. These dogs are commonly used as sled dogs because they are so strong and have incredible endurance. Siberian huskies are known to love having fun, and to love exploring, so you can bet they would love to go on a nature hike with you. Not only that, but they are extremely social, so you are less likely to have any problems if you encounter other dogs on your way.

Photo Credit: Instagram @codathewoof

German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer has been bred for generations to be a hunting dog. This means that they can perform well in less than ideal weather, and are used to being in out in nature. They have great endurance, so you can one for as long of a hike as you can stand. They are very adventurous, so take one anywhere you can imagine for a great time together.

Photo Credit: Instagram @tdcompton1

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle dogs are born to herd other animals. What does this mean? It means they have a ton of energy and are great at getting to work. Dogs with a lot of energy need outlets to burn it off, which is where a good hike comes in to play. These dogs are also well-known for their agility skills, which makes them popular for dog shows and sports. They need all the exercise they can get, so having a willing hiking partner would be perfect for them.

Photo Credit: Instagram @bluedogcrew

Bernese Mountain Dog

As you can tell from the name, the Bernese Mountain dog can handle rough terrain. It is also an exceptionally friendly breed, so they are fun to live with and they love making friends. They originate from the Swiss Alps, so they can handle cold weather and love vigorous exercise and work.

Photo Credit: Instagram @sennenlarsson

How Far Can a Dog Hike in a Day?

For creatures with such small legs, dogs can hike a surprising distance in a day, but how much exactly depends on a variety of things. First off, like humans, not all dogs are at the same fitness level. Older dogs cannot hike as far, and certain breeds are not born for really long distances. The other factor will be how easy the hike is for them. Is it rough terrain, a lot of climbing, high elevation, or all three? If so, then you had better be sure your dog can handle it, otherwise you are putting them in danger. On the other hand, a hike along a nature trail at your local park is probably not too strenuous or difficult, and your dog will be able to go farther.

The difference in hiking stamina and ability can vary from breed to breed. Hunting dogs who are in good health and go for long walks on a regular basis will be able to hike 10 miles or more with no problem. Dogs with shorter legs, such as bulldogs, can probably only handle up to 2 miles at a time. If you are an avid hiker, and you want to take your dog, it’s important to find a spot that your dog can manage without risking injury or extreme fatigue.

Retrievers are great breeds for hiking, as are Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Huskies, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Even with athletic breeds such as these, however, you need to work them up to the big distances and the more challenging hikes, just like a human would.

Source: Virginia State Parks from Flickr

If you love hiking but also love and have a breed of dog that isn’t particularly athletic, that’s okay. You can both still find enjoyment in hiking. The key is having the patience to build up their strength and stamina over time. There are some very famous dogs on social media that you can find who are Dachshunds and other short-legged breeds who climb mountains and go well beyond what you might think their physical limitations might be. You wouldn’t decide to climb a mountain without training, so you should not expect your dog to hike rough terrain without training either.

Your choice of trail and adventure will essentially come down to your dog’s weight, height, fitness, and breed. As dogs age, they lose their stamina and agility, so you may need to adjust and switch up your favorite trails if your dog can’t keep up. Overweight dogs can have great difficulty on long hikes and walks, but the good thing is that they can drop the weight quickly if they start hiking more. It’s healthier for them, but just be patient on their progress.

Can You Bring Dogs on Hiking Trails?

Make sure that the trail you do bring your dogs to allows dogs. There are some that do not, for various reasons, such as safety and sanitation. That said, most trails allow dogs since many hikers own them. However, just because dogs are allowed does not mean that there aren’t rules to be followed. There is definitely an etiquette to bringing dogs on the trail that will allow for the health, safety, and comfort of everyone, person or dog, who uses it.

Your dog should always be in control. This mostly means having them on-leash and calm at all times. If the trail or park allows it, you may let them off-leash, but only if they are perfectly trained to come when called. Try to always have as many humans as there are dogs. If there are any problems, you will want to be able to properly control them. That said, a good number of dogs on a hike is 2. If you have more than that, it will not only take up a lot of space on the trail, but it could be intimidating for other people and dogs. Always be friendly to other hikers. Your dogs will read your reactions, and you never want them to confuse an oncoming hiker for a threat. Hikers without dogs should always get right of way, and your dog should be completely controlled. You do not know if those hikers like dogs or react well to them.

Source: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington from Portland, America via Wikimedia Commons

It’s unfortunate, but oftentimes there are loose dogs running around on trails who have gotten away from their owner. Always have your dogs on their leashes if you encounter one. Stay calm, allow them to sniff each other, and then move on your way.

Do your best to prevent your dog from disturbing nature. Remember that their poop is not an acceptable addition to the environment, so make sure to clean up after them. If you don’t have any bags left, then you can bury it, but the whole must be at least 6 inches. It is best to bring plenty of bags and then dispose of them in a proper receptacle. Not disturbing nature means keeping your dogs on the trail and preventing them from trampling plants and wildlife. There are many plants that will not survive being walked on.

Best Hiking Trails for Dogs in the United States

One of the best things about the United States is that it combines a lot of urban infrastructure with nature that is sometimes right next door. There are thousands of hiking trails around the country that are great spots to bring your dog. Here are some of the best.

Fairmount Park, Pennsylvania

Fairmount Park in Pennsylvania boasts over 9,200 acres of picturesque woods and waterfront. Visitors can hike along the trains in the woods, and end up on the beach to relax with your faithful companion. The natural landscapes will provide some wonder for you, and the trails will provide a challenge and some new smells for your pooch.

Source: Frederikto via Wikimedia Commons

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is located on the East Coast in Maine. It is one of the most popular hiking spots in the country. The park has 145 miles worth of trails that are all pet friendly. The campgrounds allow pets as well, so you can go on an extended adventure with your pups. You are not allowed to swim in the lakes and creeks, but the views are breathtaking.

Photo Credit: Instagram @hlp9924

Kealia Trail

Kealia Trail is off the beaten path, if you will. For those willing to make the trip to Hawaii, you will find stunning vistas of the shores of Oahu. The Kealia Trail allows hunting dogs to be off-leash while on the trail, so they can enjoy some freedom if they are well-trained. One of the highlights of the trail is catching a look at fixed-wing gliders as they land and take off from Dillingham Airfield.

Photo Credit: Instagram @hike_away

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is a perfect destination for those who enjoy the heat of the dessert and rockier terrain. The canyon has many trains, including the Calico Hills trail that is perfect for dogs of all levels. You can start at different parts of the parking lot, making the hike anywhere from 2 to 6 miles. Along the way you will come across some beautiful dessert views and wildlife.

Photo Credit: Instagram @nycherman

Cascades at Lake Mohegan

Fairfield, Connecticut is home to the beautiful Cascades at Lake Mohegan. This wildlife preserve was once a construction area, but is not home to hiking, fishing, and even a beach. There are lots of bins to dispose of dog waste, making it a great spot to hike with your pooch. It’s very popular to walk around the lake to get views of every side.

Photo Credit: Instagram @fairfield_recreation

As you can see, there are many amazing hiking spots for you and your dogs all across the country. There is no doubt a location close to you that is perfect for your needs and will provide a challenge for both you and your dog. You probably don’t have to go very far!

Benefits of Dog Hiking Backpacks

A dog hiking backpack is a great addition to any hike or walk. It is a special backpack that carries a little extra weight and is wrapped around the dog’s torso. It provides several benefits to dogs to enhance their hiking experience. For one, it helps to build muscle. Walking is great, but the backpack provides them with a bit more of a challenge. More muscles means a healthier and stronger dog.

Many dogs also enjoy feeling like they are accomplishing something. This is what is meant when people say they like to work. With a pack, they feel like they are doing something more than just walking. They may feel like are helping to carry something. Of course, they can also actually carry things with their backpacks, such as water, treats, and even doggie bags.

Preparing for the Hike with Your Dog

When going on a hike, make sure that you are well-prepared. There are a few things to bring and to keep in mind when getting ready. Of course, you will need to bring a leash. However, it is best to go with a shorter leash. Long leashes mean that your dogs could run into the brush before you can properly control them. Short leashes are safer. Dogs also get burs on the trail, so bring a brush, especially for breeds with long hair. Check the collar to make sure it is snug enough. You do not want them to be able to slip off. The collar should also have a tag with your dog’s name and your contact info. When you are on a hike you won’t be able to turn around and go home as easily, so make sure you are ready for anything.

Water is also very important for long hikes. Your dog must be kept well hydrated, and there may not be anywhere to find water on the route. So a good rule of thumb is that for every 3 miles of walking, each dog should drink about a quart of water. You can also bring treats and snacks to reward your furry companion for good behavior. They should be easily digested dog treats, however. You do not want them being too full on the hike.

Last but not least: bring a lot of poop bags!

Safety Tips when Hiking with your Dog

Safety should be a priority on any walk, but it is even more important on hikes. There are extra dangers that they may not be used to, so make sure to be careful. Something that seems harmless to you may be very dangerous for a dog. For instance, you might want to head up a fire tower to check out the view. However, your dog may not appreciate being stuck in a small space and get claustrophobic. They can then start to panic. If you simply need to check it out, then leave your dog with someone down below. Cliffs can also be treacherous. If you seem excited to head to the edge of a cliff, then your dog will get excited too. When your dog gets close, she might end up slipping and falling off. When near a cliff, make sure to stay calm and keep your dogs leashed and close to you.

There is any number of things that could cause harm to your dog on the trail. Some dogs may need protection for their paws. You can put on booties so that they do not get injured. A doggy first aid kit will also help in the case of any emergencies. A first aid kit should have bandages, disinfectant, canine eyewash, and even a muzzle in case your dog snaps when very stressed.

As this guide shows, there are so many benefits to hiking with your dogs. Many of us are avid hikers as it is. The sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of nature are very attractive. We love to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Hiking provides a wide range of benefits for humans, especially when it comes to the heart. It also provides many benefits to dogs as well, both for their physical health and mental health. It can improve behavior and help form a closer bond with you. If you are an avid hiker consider taking a dog with you to make the experience even better.

Cons of Hiking With Dogs

However despite many benefits of hiking with your dogs, we found a Youtube video by Hiker in Estonia on why she think you shouldn’t hike with your dog. Enjoy

References

https://www.outdoors.org/articles/amc-outdoors/hiking-with-dogs-a-guide-to-bringing-your-best-friend-on-the-trail

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dog-walking-the-health-benefits

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/perfect-hiking-partners/